Unfaithful Covenant: Opus X Book 10
They say a rebellion is coming… some rebellion, neighborhood kids and vandals. Is this kind of talk only wishful thinking? Find out in this first Snippet of Opus X Book 10.
September 3, 2230, Gliese 581, New Samarkand, Sogdia
The slightly misshapen Army hovertruck cruised through the narrow and mostly empty streets with a light hum.
Despite all the complaints from locals when the curfew was issued, almost nobody challenged it. In the last week, the only curfew violators the soldiers had caught were stupid kids doing it on a dare.
A stern warning was enough to correct them. Some local teens might shout insurrectionist slogans, but they weren’t any different from bored kids anywhere else in the galaxy.
People’s respect for the curfew made for easy, if boring, control. When boredom set in, thinking followed, and it was the thinking that often led to trouble. Such was the case for Corporal Chris Donnelly as he stared out of the front passenger seat of the truck.
There weren’t enough streetlights in Sogdia. He’d always felt that way. It was sinister at night, with too many pockets of darkness where stupid teens could hide and cause trouble.
He wasn’t afraid of the dark. No one lasted long in the Army with a basic and primal fear like that. No, what he felt was annoyance tinged with a different sort of fear.
Chris didn’t care for domes. Claustrophobia wasn’t a problem for him, so that wasn’t it. He’d spent a good chunk of his modest Army career in tight quarters aboard military transports, but there was something about being on a planet or moon and having to remain underneath an artificial dome that reached into the lizard part of his brain and screamed “unnatural.”
Maybe the Purists should say something about terraforming.
Sometimes he wondered why humans bothered. He’d yet to step foot on a planet half as beautiful as Earth, and it would take centuries for the terraforming to make this planet remotely approach the less pleasant parts of the human’s homeworld.
The partially transparent dome above gave him a good view of the red-tinged sky. The system’s star, Gliese 581, was massive in the sky, a constant reminder they weren’t on Earth or even in the Solar System.
The expansive dome was a reminder, one of the many connected structures on the surface of the planet that formed the capital city of Sogdia. Densely-packed squat buildings stretched out to the edges of the domes. No one built up on this world, only out until they quick-fashioned a new dome.
That was what it all came down to. It was easy to ignore when he was on a ship, harder on a planet.
Chris glared at a nearby closed shop, his rifle clutched in his hand. This wasn’t where he was supposed to be, not twenty light-years from home, wandering around some asinine dome and accomplishing a great amount of nothing. Annoyance fed his discomfort in a vicious loop.
Too bad there was every indication he’d be sticking around for a while for ridiculous reasons.
He snorted, drawing the attention of the driver, Corporal Kruenig.
The other corporal gestured to the half-dozen data windows open in front of Chris. All contained visual feeds from low-flying drones.
“Don’t be staring out the window,” Kruenig jerked his thumb towards those data windows. “You’re supposed to be watching the feeds and looking for trouble.”
“What, more kids making rude gestures?” Chris scoffed. “I was an asshole when I was their age too.”
“I’m talking about real trouble,” Kruenig replied. “But kids shouldn’t be on the streets at this hour anyway. It’s not safe.”
“Why are we even here?” Chris replied. He gestured around. “What’s the point?”
Kruenig eyed him like he’d lost his mind. “We’re here because we were ordered to patrol this neighborhood. Just like the night before and the night before that, and the last whole damned week, Donnelly. We’re here because there is a curfew in place.”
“That’s…not what I mean.” Chris glanced at the data windows, then out the window again as they approached a narrow alley and peered down it. Then he spoke up again, continuing his train of thought. “I mean, why are we even on damned New Samarkand doing patrols instead of somewhere we could be doing something useful?”
The answer was so basic, Chris wondered if it was tattooed on his left eyelid. “Last time I checked, part of the Army’s mission was to stop rebellions. We’re supposed to protect humanity from all enemies, human and inhuman.” Kruenig frowned. He leaned forward and sniffed near Chris. “Did you get into that brandy already, Donnelly? You sound drunk.”
Chris jerked away from him. “I’m sober, Kruenig. Don’t you think you would have noticed before this if I wasn’t?”
The driver shrugged. “I don’t know. You tell me. What’s with all the questions? You’re acting like you got hit on the head and woke up to the news of a rebellion.”
“There’s no insurrection here.” Chris narrowed his eyes at someone frowning at him through a window one level above the street. “It’s just a bunch of assholes with too much time on their hands.”
“The government thinks one’s coming.”
“Based on what? Ghosts make up a lot of shit so they can sound important. That’s all this is.” Chris grunted in disapproval. “Some ID bastard trying to justify why their budget shouldn’t be cut.
Kruenig slowed the hovertruck to a crawl and stopped in front of an alley. He inclined his head toward it. “If there’s no rebellion, what’s that?”
He opened the door and jumped out of the truck before pulling his slung rifle off his shoulder. Chris followed. Even from a distance, he knew what they were in for—more signs that some of the locals didn’t want them here.
Chris marched through the alley and approached the far wall capping it.
A large brightly colored mural covered the expanse, a stylized cartoonish representation of demonic-looking humanoid dog-men with exaggerated muzzles and open mouths filled with long, sharp teeth. Dark saliva dripped from their slavering mouths. The dog men wore UTC Army uniforms and were depicted stomping on cherub-like children complete with golden wings. The cherubs covered their heads in a feeble attempt to defend themselves. A mushroom cloud blossomed in the distance.
The building design, the multicolor bracelets, and the star in the image made it clear where and what it was depicting, but if that wasn’t enough, large blue letters spelled out the message.
End the oppression of New Samarkand! Go home, UTC dogs!
“Oppression,” Kruenig read with a snort. “Without UTC funding and backing, this colony wouldn’t exist. Now that they have the cities set up and the terraforming going on, they suddenly decide they’re oppressed.” He gestured with his rifle toward the mural and looked over his shoulder. “This is why we’re here. Because some idiots don’t know their colonization history.”
“It’s just graffiti. Stupid and rather childish graffiti at that. Besides, at least in this one, they aren’t making us look like space raptors.”
“You’d rather they make us look like weird killer dog soldiers?” Kruenig asked.
Chris shrugged. “They’re just blowing off steam. I’m more impressed that they got this up overnight without us noticing.”
“Don’t be. They have preprogrammed painting drones.” Kruenig scanned the mural. “It’s not like that takes bravery.” He glanced at his partner. “Didn’t you pay any attention during the briefing this morning?”
Chris shrugged. “I might have spaced out for a couple of minutes. I can’t help it if the commander can’t talk without putting me to sleep. We should just have put him on a loudspeaker for the whole city; he would bore everyone into submission. If the worst thing we have to worry about is rude paintings, I think the UTC will survive.”
Kruenig snickered. “The insurrectionists have gotten wise to using only paint for this kind of thing. Otherwise, it’s too easy to trace them in the system and arrest them. These murals,” he waved at the wall, “are signs of more trouble, not less.”
“Insurrectionists?” Chris eyed the mural like he was judging it for concept and implementation.
“I bet it’s nothing more than bored, stupid kids. You’re acting like we’re going to end up getting shelled any second. You need to pull the rifle out of your ass, Kruenig.”
“What about what happened with the 355th?” Kruenig looked smug. “They got ambushed. You want to be ambushed?”
“They got pies thrown at them.” Chris chuckled. “This is what you’re worried about? Graffiti and pies? Is that what you thought you’d be fighting when you joined the Army?”
“That’s how it starts.” The other corporal stood right in front of the mural. “It’s probably only five percent of the population, rich assholes who want to set themselves up as kings. I heard that was what it was like on Diogenes’ Hope, a few bastards leading a bunch of people into a war they didn’t want.”
“I don’t know.” Chris knelt and tapped the wall, tracing a line in the drawing with his finger. “It makes sense, you know.”
Kruenig glared at him and muttered something in German Chris didn’t understand, but he was sure it wasn’t nice.
“How does it make sense? You’re in the Army, and you’re supporting insurrectionists?”
Chris shook his head. “Understanding something isn’t the same thing as supporting it.” He stared at the mural. “The reality is they send criminals out to colonies, so it only makes sense that sometimes you have trouble. I’ve always thought transportation was dumb. Just make more prison stations and stick ‘em there.”
“You’re the one who said we don’t need to be here.”
“Yeah, because cops and militia can handle criminals. They don’t need Army regulars.” Chris patted his rifle. “They don’t need infantry patrolling the streets or martial law.”
“Maybe. But the militia here is all but non-existent, and it’s infested with sympathizers anyway.” Kruenig stepped away from the wall and tapped his PNIU a couple of times before declaring, “Direct command, mark coordinates. Insurrectionist propaganda detected, schedule for cleaning.”
“Graffiti sympathizers?” Chris asked, incredulity in his voice.
“It’s not graffiti,” Kruenig insisted. “It’s proof this place is ready to blow. It’s a warning. What did you think, they just send soldiers to random planets because some junior bureaucrat gets a hard-on for a promotion? After that shit on Diogenes’ Hope, I bet every hick frontier colony has decided they love all the UTC money and tech but don’t like being told what to do. If you don’t like it here, get used to having to deal with crap way farther out.”
Chris tilted his head, admiring the artistry of one of the dog soldiers. “This isn’t a frontier planet.”
“How the hell is this not a frontier planet?” Kruenig laughed. “Does this look like a core world to you?”
“It’s kind of in-between, I think.” Chris shrugged. “It’s too far out to be a core world, but it’s too old and not far enough away to be a frontier colony. I think of frontier colonies as places with a handful of domes and a low population. This might not be Earth or Chiron, but they’re doing all right.”
Kruenig glared at him. “I thought you hated it here. You bitch about it every night. First sergeant even chewed you out for complaining too much! Suddenly, you’re defending their colonial honor?”
“I bitch because we shouldn’t be here.” Chris grunted. “If the Army needs troops everywhere someone complains about the government, we should have billions of soldiers back on Earth kicking people’s heads in. I never thought I’d have to deal with this when I joined the Army.”
Kruenig pulled his combat knife out of its sheath and walked toward the wall. “Huh? This is exactly what I figured I’d have to deal with. What the hell did you think you would do in the Army? Build domes? Or are you one of those guys who thought he was going to bring himself home a space raptor tooth?”
Chris looked away, not wanting to admit he had joined because he’d thought a war with the Zitarks was coming.
The damned lizards hadn’t had the balls to attack the UTC back then. He’d dreamed about standing in front of domes, bravely defending civilians from rapacious reptilian hordes, not hanging out staring at graffiti.
He might as well never have joined up.
“You’re missing my point,” Chris replied. “It’d be different if it was like Diogenes’ Hope. That was an actual rebellion backed by dangerous people, not someplace with a bunch of wannabes painting murals at night.” He inclined his head toward the wall. “Some people don’t want us here but aren’t going to do anything much, which means we don’t need to be here. If they would just shut up and stop causing trouble, we could leave and go somewhere with real problems. I’m willing to bet you right here and right now this rebellion will never escalate. We’ll rot here for a year until everyone finds something else to obsess over, and we’ll have nothing but stupid stories about murals to share, while other guys are off earning the Medal of Valor and Sacrifice for single-handedly stopping a Leem invasion. Mark my words.”
“I don’t know which is more ridiculous.” Kruenig slung his rifle over his shoulder and lifted the knife. “The idea that the Leems are going to invade, or that one ground pounder’s going to single-handedly stop them.” He drew his blade across the wall slowly, scratching a rough line through the center of the mural. “If we weren’t here, they’d shoot people left and right. I guarantee it. That’s the whole point—armed deterrence. Peacekeeping. First, it’s pies, then it’s sabotage, and then it’s missiles during patrol.”
“I’d rather be somewhere people liked us or hated us enough to shoot at us. At least then we’d get some action.”
Kruenig continued his artistic enhancements. After he finished, the mural was still clearly understandable, but there was a new message in large, rough letters in the center.
“You’re going to be in trouble when they show up to get rid of the mural,” Chris commented.
Kruenig shook his head. “Nah, they’ll erase that too. For now, it gives us a couple of hours of propaganda. I’ll take that over your ridiculous alien firefight dream. If I can get through this whole deployment without shooting at anyone or getting shot at, I’ll be plenty satisfied.”
“I don’t know—”
A loud hiss preceded a massive explosion. Their hovertruck flew into the sky in a fireball, like a phoenix being reborn into a flitter. The burning wreckage pelted the street, earning dumbfounded stares from the two soldiers.
Chris was too surprised to be scared.
“If we’d been in there…” Kruenig swallowed and tapped his PNIU. “This is Patrol Lima 2-3-2. We are under attack. I repeat, we are under attack. Our vehicle has been destroyed, most likely by missile attack. Requesting reinforcements at our current coordinates.”
Chris flipped the safety off his weapon, his heart pounding. The deadly reality of danger on this planet had made it past his disdain.
His stomach clenched as he assessed their position. The wall with the mural made the alley a dead end, surrounded by buildings on three sides, with no obvious way to climb out. Their only other exit took them toward a burning flitter and rebels with missiles.
“It’s a trap,” he muttered.
Well that escalated quickly! Check back in a few days to see what happens next and what this means for Jia and Erik. Or if you have been waiting for this next book in the series and are already committed to reading Unfaithful Covenant: Opus X Book 10 , then head over the Amazon and Pre-order it NOW!! November 14th, coming to a Kindle near you.